Anita Sadaty, MD, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology. She is a clinical assistant professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and founder of Redefining Health Medical.
Herpes is a general term used to describe infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Oral herpes, caused by HSV-1, presents as cold sores on or in the mouth. Genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease, is caused by HSV-2. There can, however, be a crossover with a type 1 herpes infection (HSV-1) on the genitals or vice versa.
Herpes is spread by skin contact with the virus, which enters through the outer layer of the skin and causes open lesions. While these lesions can be quite profound, some people can carry the virus without any symptoms. Other people experience recurring herpes outbreaks.
There is no cure for herpes. Outbreaks of both oral and genital herpes can be managed with antiviral therapy. Taking care of your health and managing stress can help to prevent outbreaks.
Herpes presents as open, blistery, or crusted sores in or around the mouth or genitals. The sores may itch or burn and often occur in clusters of small fluid filled sacs that break open and weep.
Yes, cold sores are oral herpes, which is commonly caused by herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 is spread through kissing or nonsexual contact with saliva. It commonly first occurs during childhood.
Currently there is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications. After decades of research, scientists are slowly making progress. A 2019 study identified a new mechanism that appears to play a role in controlling how the virus alternates between dormant and active stages of infection. This new finding could be the key to a cure.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by one of two strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Traditionally, HSV-1 was limited to oral herpes and HSV-2 caused genital herpes, however, slightly more than half of all cases of genital herpes are currently caused by HSV-1, likely due to unprotected oral sex.
The first outbreak of genital herpes may last two to four weeks. Subsequent outbreaks are typically less severe than the initial outbreak and heal more quickly. Recurrent attacks typically only last three to seven days.
Herpes simplex virus 1, commonly known as oral herpes or cold sores, is spread through contact with the skin or saliva of an infected person, which means, yes, you can get herpes from kissing. Genital herpes, which is caused by herpes simplex virus 2, on the other hand, is not transmitted through kissing, though it can be spread through oral sex.
Yes, herpes outbreaks can cause painful, weeping sores and blisters that can itch and may burn. In fact, the first symptom of an outbreak is often a tingling sensation followed by itching. As the sores break, the itching is replaced with pain. Outbreaks can be treated with oral or topical antiviral medications. Applying a hot or cold compress to the affected area can help to calm the itch.
A cold sore is an oral herpes lesion in or near the mouth. Cold sores typically begin as a tingling, itching sensation near the lips and develop into blistery, open lesions over the course of several hours. Caused by herpes simplex virus, cold sores are spread through contact with infected skin or saliva, such as kissing. Cold sores can be treated with an over-the-counter topical antiviral medication.
Herpes simplex virus is a family of viruses that cause oral and genital herpes. The virus is transmitted through skin contact with herpes lesions, mucosal surface, genital secretions, or saliva, and causes cold sores or blisters on or around the mouth or genitals.
Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a strain of the herpes simplex virus that commonly causes oral herpes or cold sores. HSV-1 can also be spread through oral sex and cause sores on the genitals. In fact, more than half of genital herpes infections are due to HSV-1.
Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is a strain of the herpes simplex virus that commonly causes gential herpes. HSV-2 is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex and causes herpes sores on the genitals. Though less common, HSV-2 can result in oral herpes due to transmission from oral sex or kissing.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections spread through intimate contact. Also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal disease (VD), STDs can be caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Common STDs include chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, HPV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Correct usage of latex condoms reduces the risk of contracting an STD, but does not prevent all STDs.
Explore an interactive model that shows a cross-section of human skin, and how herpes lesions can develop in its outermost section, the epidermis.
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American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQs: Genital herpes. Updated April 2019.
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Hu M, Depledge DP, Flores Cortes E, Breuer J, Schang LM. Chromatin dynamics and the transcriptional competence of HSV-1 genomes during lytic infections. PLoS Pathog. 2019;15(11): e1008076. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1008076
Planned Parenthood. How do I get treatment for herpes?
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Herpes simplex. Updated September 21, 2020.
U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Sexually transmitted diseases. Updated September 29, 2020.
World Health Organization. Herpes simplex virus. Updated May 1, 2020.
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